The Denver Nuggets are coming off a loss in a game they didn’t seem to care much about. Against the Portland Trail Blazers the Nuggets were again without all three of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton while they also elected to sit Paul Millsap for rest and did not play Nikola Jokic at the end of the fourth quarter when Denver had a chance to win. Today they play the Utah Jazz and it will be interesting to see if winning is once again not their top priority. However, the Nuggets have a chance to put the division title to bed today with a win so one would hope there would be some incentive to get a victory.

The Jazz have had a pretty rough hand dealt to them with the whole coronavirus pandemic, at least in terms of NBA teams. Rudy Gobert was of course the first player to test positive which directly resulted in an immediate shutdown of the league. Fellow star Donovan Mitchell also tested positive shortly after and it was rumored that chain of events soured the relationship between Utah’s two best players. Since then it appears that Gobert and Mitchell have patched things up, but in the meantime Utah lost another key component of their core, Bojan Bogdanovic, to a season ending wrist surgery. Despite the challenges, Utah remains right in the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture and a win today gives them a decent shot at winning the division.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (45-24) vs Utah Jazz (43-26)

When: 1:30 PM MDT

Where: The Bubble. Orlando, FL.

How to watch: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. TNT, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Sneak into the bubble with an Adam Silver mask. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival Blog: SLC Dunk

Position Denver Nuggets Utah Jazz Advantage
PG Monte Morris Mike Conley Jazz
SG Torrey Craig Donovan Mitchell Jazz
SF Michael Porter Jr. Royce O'Neale Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Joe Ingles Even
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert Nuggets
Bench PJ Dozier, Keita Bates-Diop, Jerami Grant, Bol Bol, Mason Plumlee Emmanuel Mudiay, Jordan Clarkson, Georges Niang, Tony Bradley Even

Player availability: Jamal Murray – questionable (hamstring), Troy Daniels – questionable (hip), Gary Harris – out (hip), Will Barton – out (knee), Vlatko Cancar – out (foot)

Key matchup: Joe Ingles vs Michael Porter Jr

The MPJ show has arrived. The most electric player in the bubble to this point, Porter has vaulted himself from fringe rotation player to clear starter. He is the Nuggets leading scorer and rebounder in Orlando and frankly, has been their best player as well. Against Portland MPJ ran into a tough defender in Gary Trent Jr and had to find his feet (he found them to the tune of 27 and 12). Today he’ll get another tough defender in the form of Joe Ingles. It’s crazy to say after just four games in the bubble but it truly feels like if Porter is on the Nuggets are unstoppable when they want to be. Ingles, who gives up three inches in height to Porter, will have to be his very best if Utah wants to win.

Thing to watch for: Who’s playing

Denver has been without several starters since arriving in Orlando, and the shorthanded nature of Denver’s stay has been clear to see. The Nuggets finished up Thursday night’s game with Bol Bol, PJ Dozier, and Keita Bates-Diop playing clutch time minutes, and if it wasn’t clear before, Michael Malone is pretty concerned about the entire team getting healthy before the playoffs begin. With Harris and Barton already out, the only question is whether Murray will be back with the team and how soon he can return to full health. With the emergence of Porter over the last several games, it will be important for Murray to figure out how to best work with another capable volume scorer on the floor that he may not be used to spending floor time with.